Gaseous exchange is very important for embryonic development during the incubation of bird eggs. The present study was carried out to investigate the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) pumping during the first 10 days of Pekin duck egg incubation on hatching characteristics, embryonic growth, hormonal concentrations and the post-hatch weight of the ducks. Two different ventilation conditions were used in this study. In one condition (V), the incubator was ventilated standard. In the other condition (NV), CO2 was gradually pumped into a non-ventilated incubator to reach and maintain a 1% concentration through the first 10 days of incubation, after which the incubator was ventilated for the rest of the incubation period. The CO2 percentage in the V incubator was constant at approximately 0.18%; by contrast, in the NV incubator, the concentration was increased gradually from 0.17% to 1%, where it was maintained through the 10th day of incubation. Throughout the incubation period, the egg weight loss and the embryonic mortality percentages were significantly lower in NV than in V. The hatchability of fertile eggs and the weights of ducklings at hatch were significantly higher in NV than in V. The embryonic T3, T4 and corticosterone levels in NV were significantly higher than those in V. Additionally, the haematological parameters (haemoglobin, packed cell volume and red blood cells) of the embryos were significantly higher in NV than in V. Furthermore, a total of 1198 ducklings for the V and NV conditions, all one day old, were individually weighed and then transferred into randomly assigned floor pens with 3 replicates for each ventilation condition. The feed conversion ratio of the ducks was significantly lower in NV than in V, while the reverse was true of body weight at different ages. Therefore, we can conclude that the NV condition with circulation of CO2 for the first 10 days of incubation is preferable to the V condition.